Devolving Football? What Sofapaka and Tusker FC’s moves portend


Kenya’s 2014 premier league season starts imminently and aside from the usual ins and out, there have been two moves, or rather two incidences of a move that have struck as different. Over the Sofapaka Football Club, Mathare United and Tusker FC will be opening the season in new locations. The  formely Nairobi based,  Mathare United, Sofapaka, a shifted base to Machakos , and Tusker set out to move to Meru. The Tusker Move not beingwithout its controversies. The Stadium move being stalled first of all by KPL declaring the proposed Kinoru Stadium venue unfit to host premier League matches, only for FKF to interfere and muddy the waters further

Why did these clubs make (or set out to make)there moves? This post won’t attempt to give a ‘comprehensive’ answer to this but here are some hypotheses. Firstly, Its likely the two clubs did this because of market forces. Over the part decade, Tusker and Sofapaka have between them won more trophies than pretty much everybody else in the Kenya Premier League, yet in hue crowded field of Nairobi football, hearts and minds still very much belong to to Ingwe and K’Ogalo.

What do these moves mean for Kenyan football?  Without pretending to offer a ‘comprehensive’ answer here are a bunch of hypotheses that I figured come into play.

Firstly, the two clubs are seeking new markets to grow their brands. Tusker FC is the third most successful football club in Kenya outright, and in the past decade or so and could very well have  closed out other teams in terms of success on the field had a revival of corporate interest in the tow big community clubs (AFC and Gor) not happened when it did. Yet what do they have to show in terms of a fan base.  To the best of this blogger’s knowledge their games continue to get minimal gate attendances and for an institution with all the financial backing that Tusker has, that just ain’t right!

Sofapaka, and Mathare United on the other hand are new kids on the block. Sofapaka backed by the flamboyant Elly Kalekwa, and Mathare Unieted by the MYSA. They have taken the league by storm, and though they have better crowds than Tusker, they too seem to have found that,  the hearts and minds of most Nairobi football fans seemingly belong firmly to either Ingwe or K’Ogalo. So what do these teams do? Move I suppose.

What is the way forward For Tusker and Sofapaka?
What is the way forward For Tusker, Mathare and Sofapaka?

On the other hand why Machakos and  Meru and not say…Uasin Gishu and Murang’a ( hoe county of Kenneth Matiba, the founder of Tusker FC)? This blogger understands that the county governments in question were more than passive participants in the football clubs’ respective moves? What is in it for them

This blogger reckons that its not just prestige, but the possibility of drawing attention to use the teams as a centre-point to develop sports and cultural activities is what convinced Governor Mutua of Machakos, and Governor Munya of Meru to act on this opportunity.

Which benefits to they intend to harvest from this? Will the football clubs start developing local footballers for use their Premier League and continental assignments? Will the exposure on Super Sport TV draw interest to the wider opportunities that these counties have to offer?This blogger certainly hopes so.

NB: This post has been updated to reflect the controversy revolving around the Kinoru Stadium in Meru.

Since Harambee Stars last CECAFA Victory…


Kenya’s Harambee stars open their 2013 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup campaign against a strong Ethiopia at Nyayo stadium at 4:30pm (East African Time). The Harambee Stars have won the tournament, which is the oldest active international soccer tournament in Africa, 5 times overall with last time being in 2002 when the team was coached by a then fresh faced Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee. That was the same ghost Mulee who would lead Kenya to their only win at the finals of an Africa Cup of nations, in the 2004 edition, and has since won a number of trophies with Tusker FC, before settling into a life of TV punditry. That is a story for another day
Anyway this article is dedicated to looking at some of the things that have happened on and off the soccer pitch in Kenya since Harambee stars were last CECAFA Challenge Cup winners.
If he makes it to March next year, Adel Amrouche will become only the 2nd Harambee stars coach to finish a whole calendar year as national team head coach
Kenya has had three presidential elections, and two presidents (Mwai Kibaki, and Uhuru Kenyatta) elected to high office. In between there have been two constitutional referendums, one election crisis, a grand coalition government, and the beginning of two crimes against humanity cases at The Hague.
Shabana FC, Posta Rangers, Red Berets, and among other perennial top flight football teams have faded into oblivion, while only Sofapaka and have really established themselves in Kenya’s Premier League since then.
Three Kenyans (two of them brothers) have participated in the UEFA Champions League, one even has a winners’ medal. There is a Kenyan in a practice squad on an NFL franchise, and a Kenyan born cyclist has won the Tour de France
Kenya made it to the semi finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup once (in 2003), but has only won one game in the subsequent two editions in 2007 and 2011.
Kenya has made it to the semi finals of the Rugby Sevens World Cup twice? And become a core member of the Sevens World Series Circuit.
One David Rudisha became the first athlete to break an 800 metres World Record at the Olympics final. He also became the first man to run 800m sub 1:41, among other amazing things that happened in that race in the London 2012 Olympics.
These are just a few of the things that have happened in Kenya since Harambee stars last won the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup. Can they break the drought this round?

JUST IN: Word on the Street says Harambee Stars may coach may have already resigned over unpaid dues. Oh well…

The New Rage in Kenyan Football!


Its FOREIGN COACHES! Well maybe its not so new but since, a Dutchman named Jan Koops brought total football to AFC Leopards leading the much storied club the top of the Kenya Premier League table, the demand for foreign coaches has spiked. I’m not just saying coaches who’s passports aren’t Kenyan, but non African, European wherever possible coaches. Let’s put aside the fact that over the past two seasons Ingwe have shelled out more money in revamping their squad and technical bench than pretty much the any single club in the rest of the league. Let’s put aside the fact that, together with their rivals Gor Mahia, they have been the best two clubs at turning the renaissance of Kenyan club football into massive gate receipts. Since the arrival of Koops, Gor Mahia, and the national team, Harambee Stars, have gone for foreign coaches and according to press reports Tusker FC and Sofapaka, both who recently sacked Kenyan coaches, will be looking abroad for replacement tacticians. The thing that strikes this blogger is that all these clubs have considerable financial clout, relative to the rest of the league. Sofapaka are backed by the personal fortune of Elly Kalekwa Gor and Ingwe have their massive fan bases and millions of shillings of corporate advertising it draws, whilst Tusker are literally owned by East Africa Breweries Limited, one of the largest corporations in the East Africa region. They unlike other teams in the league have the muscle to actually pursue foreign coaches and the attendant costs of sustaining them. Also these teams either have lengthy traditions of success (see Tusker, Ingwe and Gor winning 33? out 48? Kenya Premier League Titles between them) or have very imposed very high standards for success in the case of Sofapaka. The question now remains is that will these coaches bring the desired success to ties clubs through their sheer foreign-ness or is their something about the way coaches are developed out there that makes them worth the extra investment for clubs that can afford it?

CECAFA Club Championships set to start


Its that time of the year again, as the annual CECAFA Kagame Cup. the competition for the defending legaue champions various East and Central African nations kicks off from the 30th of June to the 12th of July.

This year Sudan, via the big bucks of El Merreikh FC, are the hosts of the competition. kenya will be represented by, Tusker (defending CECAFA Cup champions) and Mathare united, (qualifiers through winning the 2008 KPL title) This season’s tournament also sees the appearance of Congolese powerhouse TP Mazembe Englebert. the club were invited as guests to fill in the gap by the withdrawal of Ethiopa and Eritrea’s reperesntatives.

Full groups and host cities below

Group “A” (El Mereikh Stadium, Khartoum):

El Mereikh (Sudan)
Atraco (Rwanda)
Mathare United (Kenya)
Kartileh Djibsat (Djibouti)

Group “B” (Khartoum Stadium):

TP Mazembe (Congo, Kinshasa)
KCC (Uganda)
Tanzania Prisons (Tanzania)
Benadir Telecom (Somalia)

Group “C” (Port Sudan):

Tusker (Defending champions, Kenya)
Hey el Arab (Sudan)
AS Inter Stars (Burundi)
Miembeni (Zanzibar)

More info from the Kenya Premier League website